✈✈ Thanks for helping WOOD, WIRE, WINGS take off! 💥💥


Wood, Wire, Wings

takes off!

Thanks so much to everyone who came to my Barnes and Noble book launch and helped raise money for Valley View Elementary School. It was such a thrill to see so many family, friends, and young readers. It’s not too late to support Valley View’s school library by buying a book of your choice at BN.com and using the school’s bookfair ID at checkout. See the graphic below for where to enter the ID. The fundraiser ends 3/7.

Support books you love without spending a dime

I know that not everyone will be able to buy my book, but please know there are SO MANY other ways you can help authors like me. Here’s a great post from LitReactor about how to support your favorite books without spending a dime.

  • Consider asking your library to buy the book.
  • No matter where you read the book, please review it at the book retailer of your choice. This helps others discover the book.
  • If you see the book in a bookstore or library, turn it face out on the shelf.
  • Take a selfie with the book and share it on social media.

I’ll be honest, I have so many author/illustrator friends, and I can’t buy all of their books. BUT these are some of the things I do to support them.

#MentorTextMoment, Uncategorized

#MentorTextMoment: Dancing Hands

As part of my writing process, I read dozens of books by other nonfiction authors. When I read, I make notes about the craft choices authors make in terms of voice, structure, POV, and other unique elements that add up to amazing books. I recently decided to share my notes (in a searchable format), so teachers and fellow writers can see what I find new and noteworthy. Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below.


Book: DANCING HANDS: How Teresa Carreño Played the Piano for President Lincoln

Author: Margarita Engle

Illustrator: Rafael Lopez

Publication Info.:  Atheneum Books for Young Readers (August 27, 2019)

Ages/Grades: four to eight years (preschool and up)

Categories: third-person POV, narrative nonfiction, biography, interiority, heart

First lines: “When Teresa was a little girl in Venezuela, Mama sang lullabies while Papa showed Teresita how to let her happy hands dance across all the beautiful dark and light keys of a piano.”

Overview (from the publisher): “As a little girl, Teresa Carreño loved to let her hands dance across the beautiful keys of the piano. If she felt sad, music cheered her up, and when she was happy, the piano helped her share that joy. Soon she was writing her own songs and performing in grand cathedrals. Then a revolution in Venezuela forced her family to flee to the United States. Teresa felt lonely in this unfamiliar place, where few of the people she met spoke Spanish. Worst of all, there was fighting in her new home, too—the Civil War.

Still, Teresa kept playing, and soon she grew famous as the talented Piano Girl who could play anything from a folk song to a sonata. So famous, in fact, that President Abraham Lincoln wanted her to play at the White House! Yet with the country torn apart by war, could Teresa’s music bring comfort to those who needed it most?”

What’s noteworthy for authors and educators:

This book arrived at the perfect time in my writing journey. In my current picture book draft, I’m struggling to remember to focus on the main character’s internal journey, to slow down and share not just facts, but feelings. Engle does an excellent job of tracking Teresa’s emotional journey in this book. Here’s an example: “Poor Abraham Lincoln! Teresa hoped she could entertain the president, his grieving wife, and their two surviving sons. …But Teresa was brave, and she believed in trying her best…” Engle shares not only Tersa’s internal thoughts (“Poor Abraham Lincoln!”) but her feelings too, with words like “hoped,” “believed,” “remembered” and so on. This is such a wonderful reminder of what a picture book biography is about: a person, not just a plot.

Another element I admire about this book is how Engle elegantly shows why studying music matters. In this case, Teresa’s song comforts — for just a moment — a grieving family. What a beautiful testament to why the arts are important in daily life.

Additional resources for authors, educators, and parents:


PPBF: Who Says Women Can’t Be Doctors?

TITLE:  Who Says Women Can’t Be Doctors?

AUTHOR: Tanya Lee Stone

ILLUSTRATOR: Marjorie Priceman

PUBLICATION INFO: Henry Holt/Christy Ottaviano, 2013

ISBN: 9780805090482

SOURCE: library

INTENDED AUDIENCE: ages 4 and up

GENRE: nonfiction picture book


“I’ll bet you’ve met plenty of doctors in your life. And I’ll bet lots of them were women. Well, you might find this hard to believe, but there once was a time when girls weren’t allowed to be doctors.”

From the publisher:

“In the 1830s, when a brave and curious girl named Elizabeth Blackwell was growing up, women were supposed to be wives and mothers. Some women could be teachers or seamstresses, but career options were few. Certainly no women were doctors.

But Elizabeth refused to accept the common beliefs that women weren’t smart enough to be doctors, or that they were too weak for such hard work. And she would not take no for an answer. Although she faced much opposition, she worked hard and finally—when she graduated from medical school and went on to have a brilliant career—proved her detractors wrong. This inspiring story of the first female doctor shows how one strong-willed woman opened the doors for all the female doctors to come.”

THEMES/TOPICS: science, biography

WHY I LIKE THIS BOOK: Tanya Lee Stone’s voice is pitch perfect in this book. She writes in a zippy, irreverent tone that’s a perfect match for Elizabeth’s personality and Priceman’s illustrations. Stone proves that picture book biographies don’t have to be stuffy, even if the protagonist hails from the 1800s.


  • What child doesn’t like to pretend to be a doctor? Fisher-Price offers this classic.
  • A readers’ guide and alignment to Common Core State Standards guide is available through Stone’s Web site.
  • ReadWriteThink offers an Elizabeth Blackwell classroom activity.

You’ll find way more cool books at Susanna Leonard Hill’s “Perfect Picture Books.” Every Friday folks review a host of new books. Join us!


Let’s Explore Science Titles Available for Preorder

Science Fair Success Cover
Cover credit: Rourke Educational Media

My first two books from Rourke Educational Media are available for preorder. USING THE SCIENTIFIC METHOD and SCIENCE FAIR SUCCESS! are for fourth grade and up and would make a great addition to a school or library collection.

Here are details about SCIENCE FAIR SUCCESS! Science fairs can be a timely assignment, but they can also be fun, rewarding, and sometimes help you to earn scholarships and prizes, too! The recipe for a great science fair or engineering project has just a couple of simple ingredients: a topic you care about and a question you can test. Learn every step of how to make your next science fair or engineering project a winner by following the detailed instructions, helpful hints, and design information in this title. So, don’t be scared, be prepared, and you are sure to have science fair success! This book allows students to understand how knowledge of relevant scientific concepts and research findings is important in engineering


Books, History, Uncategorized

PPBF: Thomas Jefferson – Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Everything

TITLE: Thomas Jefferson – Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Everything


PUBLICATION INFO: Penguin’s Nancy Paulsen Books, Jan. 7, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-399-24040-9

SOURCE:  library

INTENDED AUDIENCE: ages 5 to 8 (publisher), but I think 7 and up is a better estimate

GENRE: picture book biography


“Thomas Jefferson had red hair and some freckles (about 20 I think), he grew to be very tall and oh yes, he was the third president of the United States.

From the publisher:

“Renowned artist Maira Kalman sheds light on the fascinating life and interests of the Renaissance man who was our third president.

Thomas Jefferson is perhaps best known for writing the Declaration of Independence—but there’s so much more to discover. This energetic man was interested in everything. He played violin, spoke seven languages and was a scientist, naturalist, botanist, mathematician and architect. He designed his magnificent home, Monticello, which is full of objects he collected from around the world. Our first foodie, he grew over fifteen kinds of peas and advocated a mostly vegetarian diet. And oh yes, as our third president, he doubled the size of the United States and sent Lewis and Clark to explore it. He also started the Library of Congress and said, “I cannot live without books.” But monumental figures can have monumental flaws, and Jefferson was no exception. Although he called slavery an “abomination,” he owned about 150 slaves.

As she did in Looking at Lincoln, Maira Kalman shares a president’s remarkable, complicated life with young readers, making history come alive with her captivating text and stunning illustrations.”


WHY I LIKE THIS BOOK: Many picture book biographies of Jefferson focus on Jefferson’s roles as writer of the Declaration of Independence or President of the United States. Kalman’s book is the first I’ve seen that addresses Jefferson as a complex character, a man who condemned slavery while owning 150 slaves, and a man who might have had children with his slave, Sally Hemings. This is heavy stuff for young children, and I think much of the subject would be difficult for children younger than 7 to understand. Kalman’s conversational tone and bright artwork lighten some of the weightier topics. And I do appreciate that she is forthright with young readers, showing them that nobody’s perfect, not even Thomas Jefferson.


You’ll find way more cool books at Susanna Leonard Hill’s “Perfect Picture Books.” Every Friday folks review a host of new books. Join us!



TITLE: Papa’s Mechanical Fish

AUTHOR: Candace Fleming

ILLUSTRATOR: Boris Kulikov

PUBLICATION INFO: Farrar Straus Giroux’s Margaret Ferguson Books, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-374-39908-5

SOURCE:  library


GENRE: picture book (historical fiction)


“This is my papa.

And this is his backyard workshop, where he spends his days thinking … tinkering … and inventing things.”

From the publisher: “Clink! Clankety-bang! Thump-whirr!  That’s the sound of Papa at work. Although he is an inventor, he has never made anything that works perfectly, and that’s because he hasn’t yet found a truly fantastic idea. But when he takes his family fishing on Lake Michigan, his daughter Virena asks, “Have you ever wondered what it’s like to be a fish?”—and Papa is off to his workshop. With a lot of persistence and a little bit of help, Papa—who is based on the real-life inventor Lodner Phillips—creates a submarine that can take his family for a trip to the bottom of Lake Michigan.”

THEMES/TOPICS: history, science, inventions

WHY I LIKE THIS BOOK: I like this book because “it’s almost true,” as Fleming states in her author’s note. Fleming uses her note to tell us what’s known about Lodner Phillips and his various submarines, as well as what remains unknown. The book does rely upon made-up dialog, accompanied by repetitive phrases, and plenty of onomatopoeia for lots of read-aloud fun.


You’ll find way more cool books at Susanna Leonard Hill’s “Perfect Picture Books.” Every Friday folks review a host of new books. Join us!